By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Outgoing Narre Warren South MP Judith Couacaud Graley says she’s proud of her legacy but won’t miss the “toxicity” of today’s politics.
Ms Graley says she was overwhelmed by a long list of Facebook well-wishers soon after she posted her decision on 19 August not to seek re-election.
Since then, Treasurer Tim Pallas feted her with flowers in her parliamentary office and Premier Daniel Andrews took her aside to wish her well, she says.
Days before, when she rang Mr Andrews to tell him, he said: “That’s not the news I wanted to hear.”
Ms Graley says her decision to end her 12-year tenure was her own.
Like Western Bulldogs great Bob Murphy, she didn’t have enough “petrol” in the tank to commit to another four-year term.
“Politics is a really hard gig. It takes 110 per cent of your effort.
“I’d feel I’d be letting people down if I couldn’t do that.”
With ALP pre-selection for the seat set to start in September, it was best to declare her hand early, she said.
“I’ve been contemplating it for a little while,” she said.
“It was becoming difficult to pretend I hadn’t made the decision.”
She plays down the “beat-up” of her three-page report into a taxpayer-funded international trip into a possible boutique museum in Melbourne in 2015.
It tells of a politics that is “a lot more toxic than it used to be”.
“People are much more cruel … on both sides.
“There’s a damaging view on politicians. It’s been fed by social media and it’s not helping to preserve a good democracy and a good civic culture.”
She says she has since submitted “Part 2” of her travel report to Parliament, which she would later elaborate upon.
“I believe that trip has an incredible value to every woman and family in Victoria.”
In her remaining 14 months, Ms Graley plans to see in the opening of Casey Tech School, as well as upgrades to Kambrya College and Narre Warren South P-12 College.
There is also the removal of a level crossing and upgrade of Thompsons Road, and the start of a Casey Hospital re-development to come, she says.
Ms Graley is proud of $1 billion of roads being built in her electorate as well as nine new schools during her three terms.
Still more infrastructure, particularly roads, are sorely needed in the fast-growing South-East.
“I understand the frustration and the anger and talk to that all the time and relay it to the Treasurer.
“It’s almost like the growth is so incredibly quick that infrastructure lags behind it.”
Ms Graley says the government was playing “catch-up” after four “lost” years of the previous Liberal State Government.
In that term, “not one road was completed, not one school built and there was not one upgrade to our schools,” she said.
As parliamentary education secretary, she also plans to keep rolling out the schools Respectful Relationships program to tackle family violence.
After the 2018 state election, Ms Graley intends to continue being an advocate for education and women.
With her children getting married, buying a house and starting a business, she is also set to deliver “free labour from Mum”.
“I look forward to doing that again.”